Posted on

Entire Sweet Palermo® range receives ‘Taste of the Year 2021’ award

Entire Sweet Palermo® range receives ‘Taste of the Year 2021’ award
Photo: Rijk Zwann

For the second year in a row, Spanish consumers have awarded Sweet Palermo, the dulce Italiano of Rijk Zwaan, with the ‘Taste of the Year’ seal of approval. After putting forward only the red variety of Sweet Palermo as a contender for the award in 2020, for 2021 we submitted our entire range: the colours red, yellow and chocolate. We are delighted to announce that all three colours were successful and may now display the ‘Taste of the Year 2021’ label, which is awarded for products that stand out on the shelves thanks to their unique and appealing flavour. The result was determined by a critical independent jury of consumers, who were impressed by the quality of Sweet Palermo compared with other varieties.

‘Taste of the Year’ is the only seal of approval based exclusively on a product’s flavour qualities, as tested by consumers. The Global Quality Group has been coordinating the award of these labels for more than 13 years in Spain and 20 years elsewhere in Europe.

Consumers prefer Sweet Palermo

A sensory study in the pepper category, carried out by ALS Global Iberia, revealed outstanding overall satisfaction regarding Sweet Palermo. This recognition is particularly valuable since ALS Global Iberia is an independent sensory analysis laboratory that works with a panel of 80 Spanish consumers who regularly buy and eat peppers.

The evaluation included the taste, appearance, aroma and texture of the entire Sweet Palermo range in the colours red, yellow and chocolate. The results of the sensory study revealed outstanding scores in terms of consumer preference and acceptance of Sweet Palermo.

“This new recognition is important for the Sweet Palermo brand as it confirms consumer trust in both the brand and the characteristic flavour and quality of our range,” says Javier García Rigol, Chain Specialist at Rijk Zwaan Ibérica.

The Sweet Experience

Sweet Palermo is deliciously sweet with thin skin and hardly any seeds on the inside, plus it is extremely versatile and very high in vitamin C. These characteristics have made it the consumer’s favourite, as confirmed by the ‘Taste of the Year 2021’ award. The entire range of Sweet Palermo has year-round availability.

Adding a new award to sweet palermo´s list

2012: Best Sweet Pepper in the Netherlands, award in Foodlog’s New Fresh category

2015: Product of the Year 2015 in Fresh Market category, Poland

2018: FICA Summer Event, Netherlands – recipe for red Sweet Palermo with chocolate

2020: Taste of the Year 2020, Spain

2020: Superior Taste Awards including three stars for the yellow version, International Taste Institute (recognition by the world’s most prestigious chefs), Belgium

2021: Taste of the Year 2021 for entire Sweet Palermo range, Spain

To discover #TheSweetColours, visit the website: www.sweetpalermo.com

Choose your colour, enjoy its taste!

Posted on

Salanova® Teenleaf: halfway between babyleaf and mature heads

Salanova® Teenleaf: halfway between babyleaf and mature heads

Rijk Zwaan’s efficient fresh-cut salad solution for soil and hydroponic cultivation

Salanova® Teenleaf is an innovative salad concept. In terms of size, this ‘teenager’ is halfway between a babyleaf and a fully mature head of lettuce, combining the best of both worlds. These lettuce varieties are already successfully grown in high density in soil, harvested mechanically and used in all kinds of fresh-cut salad blends in the US and Australia. And now, vegetable breeding company Rijk Zwaan is introducing a choice of new Teenleaf varieties for high-density hydroponic production.

The Teenleaf salad concept is a spin-off from Salanova – the company’s ‘one cut, ready’ lettuce range. Bauke van Lenteren, fresh-cut specialist said: “Salanova Teenleaf is a more efficient method for the production and processing of fresh-cut salad blends. Teenleaf varieties are suitable for high-density growing, both indoors and outdoors, machine harvestable, and because they are harvested slightly later than babyleaf, they generate a higher yield. Thanks to the ‘one cut, ready’ principle they immediately separate into individual leaves. This enables fresh-cut companies to use them in appealing ready-to-eat salad blends with higher net usability and less waste than fully mature lettuce. The leaves are a little more robust than babyleaf, but still ‘forkable’ for consumers.”

Teenleaf varieties for hydroponics

As a new development, Rijk Zwaan is introducing a range of Salanova Teenleaf varieties for hydroponics, a production method that is rapidly gaining ground worldwide. Peter Sonneveld, specialist in hydroponics, said: “We’ve noticed that fresh-cut companies are looking for a clean, residue-free product that can be grown locally all year round. Hydroponics ticks all the boxes. Growers can produce Salanova Teenleaf varieties in a range of hydroponic systems. Teenleaf is ideal for machine harvesting right from the hydroponic system and produces a high annual yield in terms of kilos per square metre.” Salanova Teenleaf varieties are available in a wide choice of colours, textures and leaf shapes, so a salad blend can be mixed to suit every consumers preference: sweet and crunchy, mild and colourful, or premium and delicate.

Photo: Rijk Zwaan

Posted on

Fresh vegetables continue to gain ground in foodservice market

Fresh vegetables continue to gain ground in foodservice market

Whether in a smoothie for ‘on the go’, snack tomatoes in a business meeting or an 80/20 meal at a top-class restaurant… Bauke van Lenteren, Manager Convenience at vegetable breeding company Rijk Zwaan, has noticed that fresh vegetables are becoming an increasingly important ingredient in the growing foodservice market.

There is less data available about the foodservice market than the retail sector because it is much more fragmented. Van Lenteren: “The foodservice and convenience market is made up of several different channels, such as food chains, restaurants, vegetable processing companies and institutional catering companies. Additionally, there are significant differences between individual countries. In France, for example, catering targeted at the education sector is big business. In the UK, we’re seeing a blurring of the lines between restaurants and supermarkets. And in the USA the out-of-home market is already bigger than the retail market because American consumers eat out much more often than they cook at home. The ratio is around 70:30.”

More vegetables

Although each country is evolving differently, the market is growing overall. The statistics also show that the share of fresh vegetables in the foodservice segment is on the rise. In the Netherlands, Dutch foodservice companies purchased 10% more fruit and vegetables in 2018 than in the previous year, according to figures from GroentenFruit Huis. Salads, vegetable blends and tomatoes are most popular. Van Lenteren: “Michelin-starred chef Niven Kunz has been one of the pioneers of Dutch cuisine. He launched the 80/20 philosophy – the ratio of vegetables to meat on a plate – and inspired other chefs to do the same. A similar trend could be seen during the European Convenience Forum in Hamburg. Research has shown that the out-of-home market purchases the most fresh-cut fruit and vegetables in Germany.”

A specific variety for every snack

Van Lenteren expects this trend to continue, and Rijk Zwaan is capitalising on it with innovations. “We have a specific variety that meets the needs of the restaurant, food chain or caterer for every application. Our cos lettuce with KnoxTM is the ideal solution for Caesar salads, for example. And we have the perfect lettuce leaves for every type of sandwich – classic baguettes, hamburgers or flatbreads. In fact, our Wrap Lettuce can even replace the bread altogether. Our extra-large tomatoes can be used as hamburger toppings, and versatile babyleaf spinach is the ideal ingredient in a healthy smoothie or salad for lunch.”

Over the coming month, Rijk Zwaan will be putting these and other out-of-home applications in the spotlight. Van Lenteren: “We hope to inspire foodservice companies to use even more vegetables!” That’s how we share a healthy future.

 

Posted on

Knox™ keeps Crunchy Caesar Salads extra fresh

Nowadays, every fast-food chain and company canteen has a choice of salads on the menu, often with tempting names such as Veggie Delight, Thai Chicken Salad or Crunchy Caesar Salad. One indispensable ingredient is cos lettuce or iceberg lettuce. A unique innovation that ensures fresh-cut lettuce stays fresh for longer has recently opened up new opportunities for the foodservice market.

Although there are some clear differences per country, the foodservice market is growing worldwide according to Rabobank’s ‘Global Outlook – Foodservice 2019’ report. In the USA, for example, the concept of ‘casual dining’ – a cross between a restaurant and a fast-food chain – is becoming increasingly popular. Meanwhile there is a growing focus on ‘healthy’ and ‘fresh’ across the globe. Bauke van Lenteren, Manager Convenience at vegetable breeding company Rijk Zwaan, confirms this trend: “We’re seeing healthy food, fresh ingredients and minimal waste becoming ever-more important in the out-of-home market.” 

Less waste

Salads are a good fit with that trend and they are increasingly taking centre stage, whether on people’s plates or ‘on the go’. But how can an out-of-home chain ensure its Crunchy Caesar Salads stay fresh and appealing? Rijk Zwaan, the market leader in lettuce, has the answer to that question in the shape of its award-winning innovation, KnoxTM. Van Lenteren: “KnoxTM is a natural trait that delays pinking in lettuce, which extends the shelf life by at least two days and reduces waste. It was launched in 2015 and we now offer a complete range of KnoxTM lettuce varieties enabling year-round production. The range includes iceberg and cos, which are both widely used lettuce types in the out-of-home market. We have a suitable variety for every application.”

Seeing and tasting

She has noticed rising interest in KnoxTM varieties: “I took several convenience and foodservice companies on a guided tour of our demo field in Fijnaart during the Demo Days in early June. We will also be promoting our KnoxTM lettuce varieties at PMA in Monterey, USA, in late July, Hort Connections in Melbourne, Australia and again in the demo field in the Netherlands in September. Anyone who is interested is welcome to come and see, taste and compare our lettuce varieties for themselves.” That’s how we share a healthy future.

Foodservice facts and figures*

  • Foodservice will continue to grow worldwide in 2019
  • Casual dining is the biggest growth area in the USA
  • Spain is the ‘sweet spot’ in Europe
  • Healthy and fresh fast food is showing strong growth across Europe
  • In China, the key growth accelerators are ‘digital’ and ‘delivery’

*Source: Rabobank – ‘Foodservice 2019 – Global Outlook’ report

Rijk Zwaan is exhibiting at PMA Food Service in Monterey, California, USA, on 26 and 27 July 2019. For more information about Knox™, go to www.rijkzwaan.com/solutions/knoxwww.rijkzwaan.com/solutions/knox

Posted on

Enthusiastic reactions to new Sweet Palermo colours

Enthusiastic reactions to new Sweet Palermo colours

Chain partners have reacted enthusiastically to the new Sweet Palermo® colours. Orange and chocolate-coloured variants are now available in addition to red and yellow ones within Rijk Zwaan’s brand of sweet pointed peppers. “We plan to introduce the trio of red, orange and yellow across the whole of Europe,” says Jesús Villegas from Unica Fresh.

According to Jesús Villegas, who is responsible for pepper sales at the Spanish export company Unica Fresh, the market for sweet pointed peppers is still growing in Europe. “Relevant growth continued last season. Thanks to its good flavour and texture, the red Palermo RZ is a fantastic pepper, whether cooked or eaten raw. The yellow variant is performing very well too, and has had a particularly strong launch in Germany. The arrival of the orange sweet pointed pepper opens up opportunities for a new blend that we plan to introduce across the whole of Europe. The trio of red, orange and yellow will help us to expand the market.”

Flavour and shape

Rijk Zwaan developed the Sweet Palermo brand in 2015. Appealing flavour, versatility and convenience are the three main strengths of the red Palermo RZ and have become the brand’s core values. Therefore, it has taken some time for the vegetable breeding company to develop yellow, orange and chocolate variants that are up to scratch. Marketing Specialist Heleen van Rijn-Wassenaar from Rijk Zwaan: “We’d set a high bar for ourselves. We wanted the other colours to offer consumers the same high-quality experience. We trialled the varieties extensively, testing the taste with consumer panels, the shape together with breeders and the technical traits with growers. These new colours meet all our criteria. For example, the chocolate Palermo is just as surprisingly sweet as its red ‘sister’.”

New inspirational packaging concepts

With these four colours, it is now possible to make numerous Sweet Palermo combinations. “That creates more diversification within the category. At our Retail Center in Berlin, we use techniques such as eye-tracking technology to test new packaging concepts and ideas for blends which we then offer to our chain partners as inspiration. For example, a mix of red, yellow and chocolate – which is almost black – can be used to make a blend featuring the colours of the Belgian or German flag. Various seasonal blends are possible too. We will soon be launching a campaign called ‘Colouring the Year’ to support this idea,” explains Van Rijn.

The importance of product development

Jesús Villegas from Unica Fresh is happy with such support. “It helps us during the launch. The collaboration with Rijk Zwaan around product development and market launch is very important to us. Our customers’ wants and needs are always our top priority, of course. I expect the market for sweet pointed peppers to continue to evolve and grow. Following on from Scandinavia and Germany, we’re already seeing good sales performance in Spanish supermarkets, for instance.”

 

Posted on

New downy mildew resistance could give organic lettuce growers more certainty

New downy mildew resistance could give organic lettuce growers more certainty

For organic lettuce growers, it is essential to be certain of a good harvest. Rijk Zwaan offers them a choice of around 60 organic varieties with extensive resistances against diseases and pests, all of which respond well to organic fertilisers. A new, horizontal resistance to downy mildew could now represent an important next step. Johan Schut, Breeding Manager Lettuce, provides an overview of this and other breeding developments for organic lettuce.

“What organic growers look for in a lettuce variety is not actually all that different from their peers who grow lettuce traditionally. The most important criteria for both groups are resistances to diseases and pests, especially against downy mildew (Bremia) and aphids (Nasanova ribisnigri Nr:1). Besides that, the lettuce must have an attractive appearance, good flavour and not be susceptible to tip burn and bolting. The major difference is that the variety must respond well to organic fertilisers. It’s important for us to have good contact with growers because we want to understand their needs. We’re seeing solid growth in organic lettuce.”

Testing at an early stage

“Because the demands are so similar, Rijk Zwaan’s breeding programmes for organic lettuce and traditionally produced lettuce largely run in parallel. In the phase before commercial launch – phase 3 or even phase 2 – we consciously choose to run trials of highly promising varieties at organic growers, under the supervision of our crop specialists. That allows us to see which lettuce performs well at an early stage. We have a separate organic trial field for open-field crops in Welver, Germany, for the same reason, and propagation is done separately too. Seed is produced by certified growers in the Netherlands and Australia. So all 60 of our lettuce varieties are available as organic seeds and not just as non-chemically treated (NCT).”

Always a suitable variety

“With 60 varieties our organic lettuce range is very extensive, and our customer base includes organic growers from across Europe and beyond. Some of the favourites are the Jerrican RZ red lettuce variety and the green Tombelo RZ which produces large, firm heads of lettuce. In iceberg lettuce the varieties Jasperinas RZ and Diamantinas RZ have been popular among growers for several years. Meanwhile, Kisheri RZ is a green oakleaf variety that is grown widely in Germany and France. Whether they produce in greenhouses or outdoors, organic growers can always find a suitable variety – even for green and red batavia lettuce, lollo bionda, lollo rossa, cos lettuce and Salanova® types.”

Horizontal resistance to downy mildew

“The biggest challenge in lettuce breeding is the fact that new strains of mildew are emerging all the time. We keep incorporating new resistances, but the downy mildew keeps adapting to them, so we’re now looking at a different approach. Some old wild lettuce varieties are less susceptible to mildew. They appear to be more solidly resistant to the disease because there are more genes involved. We call it ‘horizontal’ resistance to downy mildew. The breeding is difficult because it’s harder to identify the components of this desirable trait, but we’re making good progress. We’ve tested our first potential variety, but it will still be some time before varieties are available commercially. This is a very interesting development for both organic and traditional production methods, because it gives growers more certainty of a good harvest.”

Organic lettuce in a bag

“Convenience is an important aspect for Rijk Zwaan when breeding lettuce varieties for the traditional market and has resulted in lettuce in bags, on sandwiches or in salads. Even though that’s still a relatively new market for organic lettuce, I believe it will grow. More and more young people are buying organic vegetables because they want a reliable product that hasn’t involved the use of chemicals. Those consumers are looking for both organic and convenience, and we can meet both of those needs.”

Posted on

The cocktail tomato with all the right traits

The cocktail tomato has gained a firm foothold in the tomato category in numerous markets over the years. Consumers rely on this tasty truss tomato with an excellent price-quality ratio as the ‘best deal’ for all types of salads. Rijk Zwaan has secured a good position in the cocktail segment thanks to Brioso RZ, because the variety offers precisely what growers and retailers are looking for, explains Marketing Specialist Johan Vis.

“Brioso RZ provides certainty. It’s a flavoursome, aromatic variety with a good yield throughout the whole year thanks to its high truss productivity, including under artificial lighting. The nice, flat trusses make it easy to pack. This dependable variety enables high-tech growers to offer their customers supply reliability. For retailers, the consistently high quality all year round makes the cocktail tomato a must in their fresh produce assortment. They don’t want to disappoint consumers with out of stocks. This variety has been meeting all those expectations for years; that’s its key strength.”

Two breeding aims

“Our breeders are continuously looking for new toppers like Brioso RZ. The tomato category is mature and hence very crowded. Any new variety must be distinctly better than a market’s current reference variety. For each commodity within the tomato category we’re seeking the best variety that offers certainty and high profitability – that’s our primary aim. The second breeding aim is to develop premium products: tomato varieties that stand out by visibly excelling in terms of taste or experience.”

Right positioning

“In both cases, collaboration with partners is the key to success. The right retail positioning depends on a number of aspects coming together; the intrinsic strength of the variety must match the kilo price, the relative price compared with other tomatoes and the packaging. The product can be a success if all those factors are in balance. To achieve this, it’s extremely important to exchange knowledge, experience and – increasingly – data.”

Posted on

Snacking varieties on the rise at Rijk Zwaan

“Retailers are aiming to strengthen the format by bringing taste into the tomato assortment.”

In its quest to service the retail chain and connect to the retailers’ format, uniformity is one of Rijk Zwaan’s focal points; the ability to deliver homogenous bunches and equal fruits, explained marketing tomato & cucumber specialist Johan Vis during an open day at the Rijk Zwaan demo greenhouse. He keeps in close contact with retailers to know what is needed, and in tomatoes taste is very important at the moment. “Retailers are aiming to strengthen the format by bringing taste into the tomato assortment,” Vis said.

Taste will remain an important focus for Rijk Zwaan over the coming years in the drive to raise awareness of differences in flavours.  For now, the Florantino is one of the most promising and special tomato varieties, simply bursting with flavour. In addition to being very flavourful, it offers exclusivity and “it has that moreish quality that makes that you keep on eating this snack tomato,” explained Vis. The snacking segment is currently enjoying a lot of attention. A lot of effort has gone into developing Rijk Zwaan’s varieties, which target this burgeoning segment. Different coloured snack tomato varieties with excellent taste have been added to the assortment. They are highly appreciated in mixes.

Ternetto: taste & yield

The optimum combination of good properties in a variety is the basis for Rijk Zwaan. The firm aimed to bundle a high yield and good taste into a variety that really stands out, and the answer was found in the Ternetto. “Ternetto is a highly productive snack tomato variety with really good taste and the tomatoes don’t crack, which makes them an excellent choice for packing in shakers,” said Vis. Another product on the rise in the snacking segment is the cucumber. Rijk Zwaan is currently testing different varieties of snack cucumbers alongside a cucumber (still in the number stage) that has a smaller core, making it suitable for use in sandwiches.

Posted on

Rijk Zwaan has sensational innovations

Rijk Zwaan continues to improve its portfolio in every segment, such as organics, convenience, processing and snacking.

RZ has surprises in all segments from soil cultivation, developing countries to organics, convenience and snacking segments.

Rijk Zwaan has invested a lot in variety development lately for the Mediterranean soil type cultivation areas such as found in Spain, Turkey, Africa and also Mexico. “Our focus for developing countries is to propose varieties for soil cultivation with a better yield, resistance and taste,” said Johan Vis, Rijk Zwaan’s head of marketing. He recalls the tremendous potential of the Asian region as the largest populated area in the world. “Africa will soon become the second most populated region; it has become a major target for us,” Vis said. 

A world of sensations

As for the greater value trends in developed markets like Europe and the US, Rijk Zwaan continues to improve its portfolio in every segment, such as organics, convenience, processing and snacking. “We are adding more sensational varieties to our portfolio of snacking varieties, with more flavours, colours and old style combinations.” He sees these trends are already appearing in the US market.

Among new snack items by Rijk Zwaan there are very colourful tomatoes, pear-shaped oranges, orange blocky tomatoes and yellow mini plums. “Another major trend is the pink tomato segment, which is the major one in Eastern Europe. RZ’s aim with pink tomatoes is for them to be sweet and juicy, with a specific taste and profile.”

In the case of the orange colour segment, RZ tomato varieties are being associated with lemonade and fruity taste. “We will continue to come up with new colours, shapes and sensations in future.”

Internal red, the visible taste

In the bigger tomato size, of 60-160 grams, RZ is introducing more “internal red” type varieties, with a nice deep red colour and good flavour, in order to be “visibly tasty”. In the sensational segment, Rijk Zwaan analyses and demonstrates the taste difference based on consumer trials carried out together with Wageningen University, using measured parameters. New concepts like Silk Pink and Florentina have been successfully introduced since last year. “Florentino has a marvellous taste, a plum shape and is nice looking, like a snack variety,” Vis said.

Among other new introductions in the sensational segment are the 72245 variety code for an internal red variety of sensational flavour, and the Ternetto, which is great tasting, highly productive, small and weighs around 15/20 g. The 72187 is also the new code for a pear-shaped tomato of remarkable flavour.

Snack mixes with cucumbers, too

Cucumbers and other salad vegetables are not forgotten in RZ’s new trend of innovations. There are the new shorter and bi-colour snack cucumbers. “The mix of snack cucumber varieties is now a possibility, like the new white and green variety Quirk’” Vis said. Quinton is other innovation in the segment: a new light green cucumber, and also Quarto, a dark green snack variety.

Raymos RZ and Ramywin RZ: the new RZ vine tomatoes

Raymos RZ and Ramywin RZ are vine tomatoes, the former sold as an early tomato and the latter as a late variety. The company thus covers all the crop cycles and can have the product available throughout the year.

Fundamentally, the two varieties are characteristic for maintaining their calibre and quality all year round, with their deep red colour, good firmness and resistance to the leaf curl virus and powdery mildew (Lt). Magallanes RZ is a loose tomato that keeps its quality and G calibre throughout the long cycle. Manuel Hernandez Fernandez, Rijk Zwaan Ibérica’s tomato crop specialist, says: “Customers are demanding more and more flavour and innovative products on the shelves that are easily distinguishable.”

This article appeared in edition 143 (May/June 2016) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read more from that issue here: www.eurofresh-distribution.com/magazine/143-2016-mayjune

Posted on

Innovation transforms the lettuce landscape

Knox extends the shelf life of lettuce by 2 days.

Nothing beats the freshness of fresh lettuce, and fresh-cut bagged lettuce has gained considerable ground in recent years. However, the pinking on the edges poses a problem. In response to this, the breeders at Rijk Zwaan – who are continually working on innovations and improvements to existing products – set out in search of a nature-based solution. They developed a research method and tested the extent of discolouration in hundreds of lettuce heads. And then they had a breakthrough: the researchers found a plant with no discolouration even after three days. Extensive laboratory and practical tests have confirmed this unique trait.

Crossing into varieties

It appeared to be a recessive trait and breeders set to work to investigate its inheritance pattern. Once techniques such as genetic markers had provided certainty, it was time for the next step and the breeders initiated back-crossing into various lettuce types as quickly as possible. Finally, after a decade of continuous research and development, the breeders presented six varieties with the KNOX gene: Cos, Batavia, Iceberg, butterhead, Salanova® Crispy and Salanova® Butter.

A bright future for lettuce

KNOX was officially launched onto the market in September 2015 during the Rijk Zwaan Leafy Event, and the KNOX varieties were on display in the demo field in Fijnaart immediately afterwards. Visitors were very interested in the concept. All the enquiries from growers and processing companies are currently being evaluated so that widespread trials can start in 2016. Thanks to KNOX, the future of lettuce looks even brighter. Needless to say, the assortment of varieties will gradually be extended over the coming years to eventually make a KNOX version available for every favourite.

“KNOX extends the shelf life of lettuce by 2 days”

According to Bauke van Lenteren, Convenience Manager at Rijk Zwaan, KNOX responds to an important need among processors. “Thanks to KNOX, fresh-cut lettuce does not always need low-oxygen packaging. This reduces costs and gives processors more options when blending . Furthermore, it eliminates the unpleasant smell associated with opening low-oxygen packaging.” Combining the benefits for the processing industry with the advantages for retailers – better inventory management and less waste – reveals the true scope of KNOX: a more sustainable chain in which this groundbreaking innovation will hopefully stimulate consumers to purchase and hence eat lettuce more often. “After all, the KNOX benefits ultimately create a better consumer experience too.”

“Result of thorough research”

Rijk Zwaan researchers Johan Schut and Kees van Dun were closely involved in the development of KNOX. “It was a severe test of our patience sometimes. When we conducted a screening using wet filtration paper, we noticed that the exposed edges of the lettuce produced a pinkish colour upon contact. But unfortunately none of the leaf discs from our genetic material showed any deviations. We then hit on the idea that the plant might need to be a little older so we decided to use a batch of 10,000 plants grown to maturity.”

“In the test, one of the discs showed significantly less discolouration. The plant was retrieved and thankfully it produced seeds quite easily so breeding work could start soon afterwards. And the results of the first ‘bag trials’ were positive, too. The fact that it was a recessive trait made it a bit more difficult to cross it into commercial material. In order to be able to demonstrate the trait when heterozygous there was an immediate need for a genetic marker, which was a considerable challenge in view of lettuce’s large genome. Genomic breeding and bioinformatics were just starting to gain ground at that time so, supported by these disciplines, molecular biology was able to develop the marker entirely in-house.”